(Pocket-lint) - Looking for a large SUV that's comfortable on-road and exceptional when the terrain veers away from the Tarmac? The Jeep Grand Cherokee could well be the one.
The American brand has years of heritage, but can often be overlooked in the UK, with car buyers automatically giving their attention to Land Rover or something from Germany. But spend some time with the Grand Cherokee and you'll soon realise there's a lot to love about this imposing beast of a vehicle.
Jeep offers the Grand Cherokee in five different trim levels: Limited Plus, Overland, Summit, Trailhawk and Night Eagle (as reviewed). All models share the same 250hp 3.0L V6 MultiJet II diesel engine, so it's the trim and added goodies that differentiate one from the other.
Jeep has given the Night Eagle treatment to the Cherokee and Renegade in the past, so now it's the turn of the Grand Cherokee to be given the darkened package (as you can see in our pictures). It's a limited edition version that gets a gloss black grille surround and 20-inch gloss black aluminium wheels. There's also a Night Eagle badge on the tailgate to denote its exclusivity and the Jeep branding is blacked-out too.
Jeep lets you choose from six different colours: bright white is standard, but you can choose silver or granite metallic, or diamond black or velvet red pearl paint (all optional paint finishes demand a £775 premium though).
Inside things are a little different to a standard Grand Cherokee. You sit in Capri leather upholstered seats with suede inserts and black stitching - exclusive to the Night Eagle - while the dashboard and door panels are coated in an anodised gunmetal trim.
The seats - which are heated both front and back - are incredibly comfortable, so you can sit back and relax as your cruise along, holding onto the chunky steering wheel, which is also heated.
Rear seat passengers get air vents, although the temperature will be the same as whatever the driver or passenger have selected upfront, and two USB ports for charging mobile devices. If the centre seat is left unoccupied, an armrest can fold down to reveal two cup holders. We had three adults in the back of our wagon for a couple of trips, but they did complain of a lack of legroom - so the Grand Cherokee is no tardis.
The interior cabin is a very pleasant place to be as the driver, although our only real gripe is that for such a large space, there aren't many cubby holes to put your belongings. If you have a big-screen smartphone, such as Plus-sized iPhone, you can forget about putting it in the small slot where you find USB, AUX and SD card connections. It does fit snugly in the dual cup holder space, but then where are you going to put your drink? Last resort is to put it in the centre armrest, although again there isn't a huge amount of space, as half of it is taken up by a CD player (oh yes, CDs).
We also don't think the finish is top quality throughout: the plastics feel a bit cheap and there's no lining to the door pockets, for example. However, Jeep charges a lot less than its German rivals and gives you more kit included as standard.
The entire Grand Cherokee range is fitted with Jeep's 3.0L V6 diesel engine, producing 250 horses. It's mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox, the same one found in the Cherokee. Put your foot flat to the floor and it takes a moment to decide which gear it wants to give you, but for the most part changes are smooth.
While the engine does pull, this isn't a car designed to be thrown around corners or win drag races. If you want that sort of performance from a 4x4, we'd like to point your attention to the Grand Cherokee SRT. For you number fans, the Grand Cherokee hits 62mph in 8.2 seconds. Not bad for just over two tonnes of Jeep.
Of course, being a Jeep, you'd expect the Grand Cherokee to be able to go off-road, which it certainly can. It's fitted with Jeep's Quadra-Trac II 4-Wheel Drive System, which lets you switch between auto, snow, sand, mud and rock modes, depending on the terrain you happen to find yourself on.
We didn't get a chance to try the system on this Grand Cherokee, due to there not being any snow or sand in the UK (if only we'd had it on loan at the start of the year) but we have tested the same system on the smaller Compass on rocky terrain, where it proved to be an incredibly capable system. The Grand Cherokee has a higher ground clearance too, so going over large rocks shouldn't be a problem... Although we would suggest you have some knowledge of off-roading and research exactly how to use it before you start tackling rocky descents.
Of course, we're well aware that a large 4x4 such as this won't be the most economical, and in couple of words, it isn't. However, we consistently got the Grand Cherokee to return near to 30mpg on average, across long and short journeys, which we feel is admirable. Jeep claims the engine can deliver 40mpg, which might be plausible with a more conservative driving style.
The current crop of Jeeps don't have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto - they will for MY19 vehicles from September - so this Grand Cherokee has the company's UConnect infotainment system. That's not a bad thing, mind, as it's a system we've used before and have found to be quick and responsive.
You get a dock at the bottom of the 8.4-inch screen for quick access to radio, media, apps, climate, navigation and phone, so you don't need to exit any screens to access others. It's assisted by voice control too, so you can control the majority of features of the system without taking your eyes off the road.
The Night Eagle gets a nine speaker sound system with 506 Watts of amplification. It's the same system you'll find in any of the other trim levels, except for Summit, which gets a 19 speaker Harman Kardon system.
There's a serious amount of bass weight to the music you play - which can come via USB, AUX, SD card, Bluetooth streaming or those aforementioned CDs- and that's before you turn up the equaliser levels. If any road noise does creep into the cabin - which it doesn't, really, as it's a dampened, quiet place to be - it will quickly be drowned out when you turn the volume up.
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Instead of a full analogue instrument cluster, the Jeep Grand Cherokee has a 7-inch display to the centre in front of the driver. This displays the speedometer in either mph or kph, the song or radio station currently playing, fuel economy, drive mode, messages and navigation instructions. It's a very high quality display, with easy-to-read text and vivid colours. Analogue dials are used for fuel and engine heat level and the rev counter.
Whether it's the most obvious choice or not, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is a quality SUV - both on-road and off. It delivers a commanding driving position, a large amount of boot space, plenty of as-standard tech, and enough power to pull a trailer or horse box across various terrain.
However, even in its top-end trim, the interior isn't as high-quality as some rivals, while fuel economy is predictably limited. Plus the shadow of Land Rover is always hard to shake (despite the extra cash that brand demands), while Audi and even Porsche linger in a similar space when taking on the Night Eagle trim.
Overall, we found the Grand Cherokee incredibly easy to live with. After a day or two of driving to familiarise ourselves, we were able to manoeuvre it about just as we would in a family hatchback, control its tech systems with ease and cruise about with friends in comfort.